On a beautiful New York Sunday afternoon, April 17, 2016, American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Studio Company performed on their final day at The Joyce Theater. I was curious to watch these young dancers in Program C-a different repertoire. The line up consisted of La Bayadére Pas d'Action, Bier Halle, Libera!, Third Wheels, and Bolero. As I waited in wonderment of the coming piece, I too wondered if the ABT Studio dancers were anxious to knock the audience and myself out of my aisle seat with their talents. Tragically, I wound up holding the armrests from the anxiety created onstage.

La Bayadére (Pas d'Action)

This act was taken from this traditional classical ballet's "Wedding Scene" in La Bayadére. To open the ballet, four dancers entered from each wing, in the 300 plus year old choreography by Marius Petipa. However, this version of the ballet was later choreographed by ABT's former Prima Ballerina Natalia Makarova and is the company's current adaptation. The supporting dancers did a fine job from waist down, yet their elbows were drooped and they had sloppy arm movements. I picked up on this because one must understand that "the classics" of ballet are the standard to which an artistic director, reviewer, or balletomane can assess a dancer's degree of excellence. So far, it was not up to the universal standards. Soon after, the role of Princess Gamzatti, danced by Xuelan Lu and her Prince, Aran Bell, graced the stage. The music of Ludwig Minkus grandly introduced my nostalgic feeling of this particular section. As Ms. Lu performed the Grand Pas de Deux, I was struck by the fact that her partner had an unsure approach to his part. A prime example was how Mr. Bell struggled when he lifted her in an arabesque. Ms. Lu did perform the Grand Pas nicely with my remembrance of her clean triple attitude finger pirouette. Thereafter, Mr. Bell's solo variation began. In my opinion, he has the stature, feet, and legs for the character of the prince. Yet he needs to work on his presence. His solo came off flat when this is supposed to be an energetic explosive awe-filled moment for a male dancer...and for the audience. Ms. Lu's solo variation was to be a gorgeous display of the Gamzatti role. Unfortunately, she had unsteady footwork while attempting to roll through her pointe shoes, as well as when finishing double pique turns across the stage. Moreover, her variation looked as if she were marking it the entire time. Something was awry? And something was awry because the first of her Italian fouettes did not even happen correctly in her coda. She did not stay en pointe very well and she travelled sideways immensely. Just as she finished this act with her partnered pirouettes, Mr. Bell did not hold her properly and she came off pointe again in an obvious manner. Oh my.

Bier Halle (excerpt)

Delightfully, dancer Zimmi Coker was the remedy to what had just happened. She and her partner Samuel Rodriguez were dressed in a modern version of Lederhosen. The pair was accompanied by Strauss Polkas. The choreography of Ethan Stiefel brought out the coquettish wit of Ms. Coker's abilities. Her precise and quick footwork made me smile due to the manner in which she attacked those difficult steps. Yet what I adored was her youth and maturity of emotions. In essence, I could picture her as Giselle playfully jete-ing with Prince Albricht, while also in the Giselle character playing the mad woman betrayed by the prince. Even though her double piroettes were off that day, Ms. Coker made up for it with light hops en pointe and her spritely disposition. Mr. Rodriguez did well. However I believe he needs more solo coaching in order to conquer a role such as the one he performed. As a partner, he is strong. But the technical movements of a solo male dancer were not in balance.


I had seen this piece performed on Friday evening, April 15, 2016 with Satchel Tanner and Breanne Granlund. However, for this performance Mr. Tanner had a new female partner, Virginia Lensi. It was apparent that both of them worked hard to make this pas go smoothly. This ballet is very mature and spotlights, literally from above, the outline of the body. A prominence of their physique is centered by light and their flesh-toned costumes. The positions within the movements were its focus-rigid poses into a connecting interlude then back to another rigid pose. The music of Ave Maria intensified all of this. I felt that they got the majority of it correct. My only criticism is that Ms. Lensi really should have waited to place her on feet on the stage when it would go into a full blackout. Her double attitude position, in which Mr. Tanner spun her by her waist, gave the appeal of an ethereal and infinite love connection. A detail such as this, especially within the moments of a ballet, is significantly important to keep an audience member in the same realm as the dancers. It's all in the details and last impressions. Next time, wait for the full blackout.

Third Wheels

There is not much for me to mention about this act being that the dancers, Elias Baseman, Ilya Kolotov, and Xuelan Lu were the same cast as I had written in my previous April 15th BWW review. Nevertheless, there was one major difference to describe. Third Wheels was the first dance after intermission. Within those first few minutes performed, Ms. Lu still seemed frazzled from her last performance within many of her steps. At one point, as Mr. Kolotov lifted her very high, straight up in an open split, and Ms. Lu's right leg came down too soon and thus hit Mr. Baseman in the head. The audience even reacted with a gasp. As Mariah Carey had sung, just "Shake it off." I hope Ms. Lu does that and will have great performances from now on.


Six dancers, three female and three male, had my attention. The first half of this ten minute or so ballet, with music by Maurice Ravel, created a focused dilemma. Meaning when a dancer or a pair were featured, there was other choreography that pulled me to other directions. Too much was going on at once. While the iconic music kept on building, the second half was much more concise. The male dancers were sharp and definite in their delivery as a trio. Many of the movements were designed to be off-balance and rolling on the floor-in a good way. The most well-matched partnership was with dancers Adelaide Clauss and Aran Bell. They had a connection toward each other and within their performance. I appreciated a new dance approach to this stylized music. It was a wonderful concluding act to the afternoon's program.

Photo Credit: Eduardo Patino (Zimmi Coker and Samuel Rodriguez in Bier Halle)

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From This Author Marsha Volgyi

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